New medical 'breathalyzer' detects diseases via a patient's breath

A new type of medical technology can detect 17 different diseases by 'sniffing' an afflicted patient's breath, according to the American Chemical Society. The technology was inspired by the now-dated diagnoses method used by doctors before the advent of modern medical labs — sniffing a patient's breath for signs of a particular disease. The technology is essentially a disease breathalyzer.

Some diseases can be detecting by smelling the patient's breath, such as diabetes which may produce a particular type of sweet smell. Over the years, we've seen projects in which researchers create breathalyzers able to detect the properties of a particular disease, but these are generally limited in usage and therefore limited in value.

Similar but better is a new technology detailed in the journal ACS Nano that is able to detect 17 different diseases based on a patient's breath. This capability is derived, among other things, from deconstructing a disease's 'breath print' — that is, specific properties. The detectable diseases include things like Parkinson's disease and kidney cancer.

The 17 diseases ultimately display unique compositions of 13 different 'components,' something verified using samples taken from both afflicted and healthy subjects. A patient with more than one disease can still be screened using this method — the second disease won't affect the detection of the other, assuming it is one of the detectable diseases.